A Community Newspaper for the way we live

Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)

As of this writing in late April, 59,266 Americans have died from the “Wuhan Chinese coronavirus,” where the name has been changed to protect the guilty. So it is now officially designated by the acronym, “COVID-19.” A month ago, only 2,110 Americans had perished. We are now into a major pandemic.

Some will be quick to point out that the statistics may not be entirely accurate, because those physicians who fill out death certificates are listing the cause of death to be “COVID-19,” even if the patient was close to dying from “underlying conditions” that are typical of old age. The cynical will say that physicians typically make more money treating the coronavirus than the underlying conditions. Hence, the bias toward labeling more deaths as ‘coronavirus deaths.’ But the statistic is still valid, because it demonstrates that many have and still are perishing from a highly infectious disease that was unknown just a few months ago.

Last month, I pointed out that the number of deaths in the USA were doubling every three days, indicating an exponential growth. If unchecked, that could have led to a million deaths per day by the end of April. But most people had already begun to duck by mid March, either because they saw the storm coming or because local authorities told them to stay home.

Had everyone complied, we would not be seeing the horrendous death rate we are experiencing. In fact, we would not be seeing any new cases, if everyone had self quarantined for the month. Of course, those who provide essential service could not fully comply. But many others who could, simply did not.

The death rate is actually not nearly as bad in Oregon as in New York State. That speaks well for Oregonians. Only 24 per million population have perished here compared with 1,180 per million population in New York State. This means that more than one tenth of one percent of the population has already perished in New York State. And this pandemic is far from over.

Why is the situation so dire in New York City? That is simple. Where people are crowded together, the virus spreads easily. All it takes are a few jerks with the disease, who fail to quarantine as they are required to do, to make it easy for the virus to find new victims.

Fox News reported that two well-known New Yorkers with the coronavirus were spotted breaking quarantine. CNN’s explosive journalist Chris Cuomo, the brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, got in a verbal fight with a man on the street who thought that he should not be spreading the virus. Cuomo has managed to infect his wife and son, and perhaps others. Former White House Communications Director under President Bill Clinton and now ABC news anchor George Stephanopoulos was also seen in public, while still infectious. The rich and famous never believe that inconvenient rules apply to them. Rules just apply to the ethnic populations who have suffered the most from this disease, both medically and financially.

Elitists constantly champion ethnic populations while at the same time doing them no favors. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, famously encouraged everyone to celebrate the Chinese New Year with the crowds in Chinatown in late January just before his city was hit hard by COVID-19. He was playing the usual identity politics, accusing President Trump of being racist for calling out China for not telling the truth about the rapidly spreading virus and then for cutting off travel from China. Many top Democrats and their allies in the media were doing the same thing. Meanwhile, the virus was ominously gaining a foothold here, killing a few in California but not yet in New York City.

President Trump later helped New Yorkers by also cutting off travel from Europe, where the coronavirus was attempting a second assault on our largest city, this time coming the opposite way around the world. And the President made sure that New Yorkers got all of the critical medical equipment and even entire hospitals they needed. States have the primary responsibility for healthcare in this country, with the federal government as a backup.

Meanwhile a continent away, Oregon continues to see about fifty new cases every day and a few deaths, mostly in crowded Multnomah County. Oregon had 2,385 cases as of the end of April with 99 deaths. Considerably more women than men have been diagnosed with the virus, but more men have died.

The greatest number of cases have been diagnosed in the 40 to 49 age group, but there is little difference in the numbers diagnosed from age 30 to 69. However, the greatest number of deaths have occurred in those over 80, with fewer in their 70s and still fewer in their 60s. Only a few deaths have occurred below age 60.

This virus is clearly dangerous for the elderly, for those in senior living facilities, and for those with “underlying conditions” like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. For the remainder of the population, it appears to be similar to the flu, namely debilitating but not especially dangerous.

This has not kept the press from sensational coverage, with the Oregonian warning that “There is no cure.” That is true for any virus. Most who are infected with COVID-19 recover well, with little or no assistance. Some treatments look promising.

Environmental extremists seem enthralled with minimal traffic on our highways and few people on our beaches. Their promised land without people seems to have arrived. The Green New Deal is upon us! But just out of sight is a vast population that is suffering from the shutdown of our economy.

So we need to ask if we must remain house-bound until someone gives us an all-clear? John Dale Dunn, MD thinks not. He notes that the cruise ship ‘Diamond Princess’ with 3711 people on board provides a good example of a substantial population exposed to COVID-19 in close quarters. Nineteen percent of all onboard became infected and fourteen elderly passengers died. That is a relatively low infection rate for respiratory infections. Many infected were asymptomatic, and virulence among the young and healthy was minimal.

Dr. Dunn goes on to say:

“Let’s see–that is not as bad a profile as some of the Influenza A and B strains that we have seen, certainly different from the 2009 Swine Flu and certainly different from the Bird Flu (SARS) and Middle Eastern flu (MERS) that were very virulent but not so transmissible and infectious. Ebola was the virus from hell–very lethal (50% or more) but it also died aborning because it was not so infectious.”

COVID-19 is clearly NOT the virus from hell.

This means that we can proceed with a gradual re-opening of America for those least susceptible, namely the young, while old folks like me continue to hunker down until the virus passes, or we get an effective treatment.

Alarmists will say that we risk more dying from the virus if we re-open. But the first lesson in the ‘Science of Risk’ says that it is essential to minimize the risk to benefit ratio, not merely the risk. We receive great benefits from being able to move around, such as going to work.

Remember that we also experience tens of thousands of fatal automobile accidents annually in the USA. But no one wants the government to takeaway our car keys to reduce that risk. The benefits of driving are just too important.

Gordon J. Fulks lives in Corbett and can be reached at gordonfulks@hotmail.com. He holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago’s Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research and has no conflicts of interest on this subject.

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